Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – III

My third post in this exciting project on “Profiling the Unseen in Taipei”.

I’ve made a local friend who has also become my local guide and been kind enough to show me around Taipei ๐Ÿ™‚ Phoebe Cho, one of the people I met right in the beginning of this project, is one of the most inspiring people I have met here in Taipei – atย barely 20 and working as an intern, she has already taken time off to bike all around Taiwan in 11 days by herself, taken a solo trip to the US using all the money she had, taught herself three different languages and is full of zest for life. She wants to travel the whole world before she turns 28.

That sounds a little bit like the girl I wanted to be, and yet somehow Iโ€™ve managed to make my life very complicated.

Phoebe Cho - my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends.  Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever.

Phoebe Cho – my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends. Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever – traveling alone and immersing myself in the local culture would be the next step.

So, continuing with three more people I’ve met here in Taipei.

7. Meet Ms. Lijeng Lai and Mr. Cheng-Hai Hsieh, owners of a small organic tea farm in Taiwan

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer's market in Taipei. They own a team farm - it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas - Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They've recently added organic tea to their portfolio.

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer’s market in Taipei. They own a tea farm – it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas – Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They’ve recently added organic tea to their portfolio. They had to travel all the way from their farm in the middle of Taiwan the previous day, to come to farmer’s market in Taipei on Saturday.

 

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet - through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well - enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet – through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well – enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

 

Right now, it is just their family doing everything - so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That's a lot of work! Their children are in university and they're not sure right now if they'll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take - whatever makes them happy :)

Right now, it is just their family doing everything – so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That’s a lot of work! Their children are in university and they’re not sure right now if they’ll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take – whatever makes them happy ๐Ÿ™‚

8. Meet Licar, who works at a local Electronics store in Taipei

Taipei is full of electronics stores selling all kinds of interesting little things for such cheap prices!

Licar works at one of these electronics stores - he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job  - he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that's not the end of it! He has a third job - he teaches swimming! Yes, that's right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that's it.  What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan - be his own boss :) A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have - be their own boss.

Licar works at one of these electronics stores – he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job – he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that’s not the end of it! He has a third job – he teaches swimming! Yes, that’s right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that’s it. What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan – be his own boss ๐Ÿ™‚ A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have – be their own boss.

9. Meet Ms. Tsai (or Yu-Jie in Chinese), who volunteers to help mentally less gifted people

On the streets of Taipei, it is common to see a volunteer helping a “mentally less gifted” person sell various things and help them interact with other people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with  a local organization that helps mentally different people have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai's child is Mr. Chen - she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with a local organization that helps mentally different people (called “children”) have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai’s child is Mr. Chen – she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai does this as her full time job, for no salary. She is only 22, and yet understands that a good life should involve helping other people. She says that on an average, they sell to about 10 or so people every day. Yet, her goal is not to help the child make money, but to give him the chance to interact with other people. It is clear she feels responsible for Mr. Chen and is protective of him. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to do in life, but she is sure it will involve helping other people.

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Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – II

Posting part II in my series on Profiling the Unseen.

This is turning out to be a very interesting project! I’m meeting new people, and it’s such a pleasure hearing their stories and aspirations.

I’m also amazed at how it seems as if everyone I talk to has an Email ID! The cab drivers, waitresses, shopkeepers, everyone has an email ID ๐Ÿ™‚ Coming from India, this is a very pleasant surprise…I wonder how long it will take before technology becomes this ubiquitous in India too.

Anyway, so here goes three more people I’ve met:

4. Meet Elena – She works at a juice bar close to where I stay in Taipei

Elena is just 18 years old. She's studying hotel management and she works at the juice bar part time. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. She is yet to figure out what she wants to do in life.

Elena is just 18 years old. She’s studying hotel management and she works at the juice bar part time. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. She is yet to figure out what she wants to do in life.

 

One thing Elena is sure of is that she loves English. And she has taught herself English by watching movies! This seems to be another common thing in Taiwan - everyone wants to learn English, but since it isn't taught in schools, they learn on their own by watching movies. Truly amazing!  Her favorite movie is Fast and Furious because she loves sports cars. Her favorite sports car is Lamborghini! :) I'm amazed at how much she knows!!

One thing Elena is sure of is that she loves English. And she has taught herself English by watching movies! This seems to be another common thing in Taiwan – everyone wants to learn English, but since it isn’t taught in schools, they learn on their own by watching movies. Truly amazing!
Her favorite movie is Fast and Furious because she loves sports cars. Her favorite sports car is Lamborghini! ๐Ÿ™‚
I’m amazed at how much she knows!!

 

5. Meet Sharon – she works at a Sushi place in Taipei

Sharon does a bunch of things at the sushi place - taking orders, payments, coordinating the staff. She worked at another restaurant before this but changed jobs because the earlier place had too many rules.

Sharon does a bunch of things at the sushi place – taking orders, payments, coordinating the staff. She worked at another restaurant before this but changed jobs because the earlier place had too many rules.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon works from 10am-10pm! But she loves her job because she gets to interact with lots of people. This is another unique thing about Taipei - so many people I meet want to meet new people and experience new cultures. I wonder why that is the case?

Sharon works from 10am-10pm! But she loves her job because she gets to interact with lots of people. This is another unique thing about Taipei – so many people I meet want to meet new people and experience new cultures. I wonder why that is the case?

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, Sharon is so shy to get photographed!! :) She cannot stop smiling and blushing as I point my camera towards her :D And she becomes a local hero for a short while as other look on and smile at her getting photographed!

OMG, Sharon is so shy to get photographed!! ๐Ÿ™‚ She cannot stop smiling and blushing as I point my camera towards her ๐Ÿ˜€ And she becomes a local hero for a short while as other look on and smile at her getting photographed!

Sharon wants to open her own breakfast restaurant one day. It would open from 8:00am - 2:00pm, and serve coffee and sandwiches. Maybe some other things too.  I hope she realizes her dream!

Sharon wants to open her own breakfast restaurant one day. It would open from 8:00am – 2:00pm, and serve coffee and sandwiches. Maybe some other things too. I hope she realizes her dream!

6. Meet Mr. Li (Aung-Nyung) – he drives a cab in Taipei

Mr. Li is from Myanmar. He moved to Taipei with his family 20 years ago because of the political conditions there. Now he's one of the few international cab drivers in Taipei, that too one who can speak English.

Mr. Li is from Myanmar. He moved to Taipei with his family 20 years ago because of the political conditions there. Now he’s one of the few international cab drivers in Taipei, that too one who can speak English.

Mr. Li has three children and he's very proud of them :) His son loves smartphones. One of his daughters is a purchaser for shoes. The other daughter is exploring lots of different things to figure out what she wants to do in life. I'm glad he's supportive of her trying to find her passion :)

Mr. Li has three children and he’s very proud of them ๐Ÿ™‚ His son loves smartphones. One of his daughters is a purchaser for shoes. The other daughter is exploring lots of different things to figure out what she wants to do in life. I’m glad he’s supportive of her trying to find her passion .

Mr. Li misses his country. he has two homes back in Myanmar, his cousins live there now. I hope he's able to go back some day....

Mr. Li misses his country. He has two homes back in Myanmar, his cousins live there now. I hope he’s able to go back some day….

Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – I

It’s been more than a year since I last picked up my camera. Post graduation in May last year, I went back to India, dabbled in some projects, came back to San Francisco and joined the world of Management Consulting.

It’s been a rough ride…one that has led to a lot of introspection and thinking about what I want in life. These days I’m on an engagement in Taipei, Taiwan. Being international has given me even more time to think about life. Long story short, I picked up my camera after a very long time – perhaps I needed a channel for the confusion/angst/frustration/whatever? Whatever the reason, it felt good.

And thus I embarked on a new project – “Profiling the Unseen”. These are the people in the background. The ones who keep our systems running, keep what we see as we see it, keep the seemingly ordinary not fall into chaos, keep our lives chugging along effortlessly – and yet they remain unseen. They are the seemingly “unremarkable” around us – the cleaning lady, the coffee vendor, the gym instructor, the information desk keeper.

Yet, are they truly “unremarkable”? Perhaps they too have a story worth sharing.

Why am I doing this? I have tried to put a purpose to this. A goal. Some meaning that would make this exercise worthwhile. I have failed to do so – except for the fact that I experience joy when I talk to these people. I feel gratitude when these people open up to me and share their dreams, their journeys, their hopes. I feel wonderful when the mere act of getting photographed makes their day. I feel happy when these people cannot believe that someone wants to merely talk to them with no hidden agenda.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing short profiles of the people I meet. My job doesn’t allow me to wander during the week or I would talk to atleast a hundred people over the course of a few weeks. But, be that as it may, I carry on.

1. Meet Bolros – A self-made entrepreneur who sells coffee on the streets of Taipei

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I met Bolros in the Xinyi district of Taipei. His infectious laughter and the large crowd gathered around him was enough to pique my interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolros brews coffee for you on the spot, using a machine that’s inbuilt into his scooter! Apparently this contraption is unique to Taiwan – and that’s his business. He makes a livelihood through selling coffee, and selling these machines that make coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolros’s dream is to eventually sell these machines outside Taiwan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apparently keeping a scooter on that part of the street was illegal. However, even as the police came and asked him to leave, Bolros put on his riding hat but continued making his last cups of coffee for the crowd. That’s hustle right there ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

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Phoebe is one of the happiest kids I’ve met. She’s just 20, and full of smiles every time I see her. She’s an intern at the gym, and ย plans on going to the US next year after completing her internship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are her dreams? She wants to travel the world, learn 3 different languages (Japanese, Spanish and English), and enjoy life in either Miami or New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Her goal in life is to have her own hotel!! ๐Ÿ™‚ What kind of hotel would she like to have I ask? “Where customers feel at home. Everyone in the hotel will know the customer’s ย name. Like family.” Wouldn’t you want to visit her hotel? ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

2. Meet Phoebe (or FeiFei in Chinese) – She mans the information desk at my gym

 

 

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A strong woman, Vivian wowed me with her courage. After spending her 20s as a sales rep for cosmetics, she decided to go in for a career change in her 30s into hospitality.

 

 

 

 

 

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I asked her – wasn’t she scared? She said, of course she was! But, she also knew she would be good at the job because she loves to ย make her customers happy. She just knew she would be perfect for the job.

 

 

 

 

 

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The shy but confident Vivian wants to become Hotel Manager one day ๐Ÿ™‚ I can already see her achieving her dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Meet Vivian – Team leader of housekeeping at Hotel W, Taipei

From a recent bridal shower

Snapshots from a recent bridal shower I covered in Philadelphia.

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Beautiful preparations

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Waiting for the bride to arrive

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The beautiful bride glowing with happiness

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Guests fill out a quiz to show off how well they know the bride

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In the hot seat!

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A toast to the bride

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Sharing stories

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Each guest shares stories

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Some guests cry out of happiness ๐Ÿ™‚

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Showing off a wedding dress made with toilet paper in 20 mins!!

Photographing couples

It is a challenge to shoot couples! You have to not only get the pair comfortable, but also have a bag of creative poses in mind for the couple to try out. Sharing photographs of a lovely couple I recently photographed in Philadelphia.

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